The Half Moon Bay High School water polo team is young, with just two wins to date. And when the Cougar resolve is challenged, players turn their eyes to teammate and surfer Malcolm Feix.
“He's one of my team captains and has played varsity since he was a sophomore,” said Half Moon Bay water polo coach Justin Ferdinand. “He's the emotional leader of the team and does a great job of getting us focused and keeping them calm when needed.”
Feix is also Half Moon Bay’s second-leading scorer and its leader in steals and assists while playing point on offense and the hole on defense.
“I’ve been playing water polo since my freshman year,” Feix said. “I’ve always been into water sports, from an early age. I always surfed and am still a surfer, and I thought water polo would be fun. It’s similar to soccer and sort of takes me back.”
Ah, soccer. Despite his parents’ love of water sports — dad Thomas is a swimmer and surfer; mom Jenny is a competitive Masters swimmer — Feix played soccer from age 5 to 11. When he was 8, he saw a flier for a travel soccer team tryout, marked the date on his calendar and pestered his parents to take him.
That began a four-year odyssey for the family into the world of serious, high-level soccer.
“We were going all over the place,” Jenny said. “We’d find ourselves on a weekend at some soccer match in Modesto."
That all ended when Feix turned 12 and heard the siren call of the sea.
“He told his soccer coach, ‘I’ve decided I want to surf, so thanks for a great four years, but I’m outta here,’" Jenny said with a laugh.
The Half Moon Bay star has a more detailed account.
“I grew out of it,” he said. “I was playing baseball and soccer (and surfing), and my coach said if I didn’t commit myself more to soccer then I’d be sitting on the bench more. I didn’t want to give up all my other sports, so I decided not to play (soccer) anymore.”
Or maybe it was just the proximity of the water. The family lives in Moss Beach, after all, just two blocks from the ocean.
Thomas Feix is from Burlingame and swam at Mills High. As a young teen he made his way over Sharp Park Road in Pacifica, by whatever means, to surf. An outstanding athlete overall, he also did gymnastics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Jenny Feix is from Philadelphia. She met her husband while they both swam for the San Mateo Marlins Masters team. Little did she know about the surfing safari she was signing up for.
“My husband is a surfer and Malcolm’s a surfer,” said Jenny Feix. “They’re definitely their own breed. We don’t live far from the ocean and, when the swell hits, I may not see them for a few days. I’ve attended many a party alone when I thought there’d be people with me.”
But the love of the water is benefiting her son, who excels in polo, enjoys surfing Montara, the Jetty and Ross’s Cove — and somehow maintains a 4.5 grade-point average.
“He’s a great kid,” Jenny said. “He’s funny and really fun to be around."
Asked what he likes about water polo, Feix said, with surf-influenced expression: “I like to make a half-sick maneuver and score a goal, or watch my friends score goals, or score goals in front of my friends.”
The secret truth about water polo is that it can be brutal. In the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, water polo teams from Hungary and the Soviet Union played what was dubbed a “blood in the water match” against the backdrop of the Hungarian Revolution. Hungarian player Ervin Zador emerged during the last two minutes with blood spouting from above his eye after being punched by Soviet player Valentin Prokopov.
“It’s like underwater wrestling,” Feix said. “There’s suit pulling and elbows thrown and kicks. It’s intense. There’s a lot of underwater fighting the refs can’t see. And it happens every game.” No angel himself, Feix was automatically ejected after three exclusions against Sobrato High School.
Asked which sport he prefers, Feix didn’t hesitate long, as befits any red-blooded Coastside athlete who can breathe the salt air.
“Oh, tough one,” he said. “I’d have to say surfing. It gets me back in my groove if I’m not feeling it. I get a good surf in and I’m stoked and in a good mood again. It’s something I can always rely on.”